The James Webb Space
Telescope (JWST) is NASAís next Great Observatory, the scientific
successor to both the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes. Its
scientific equipment will include several cameras to produce amazing
images in the tradition of Hubble. JWST will see the first
galaxies to form in the universe, and explore how stars are born and
develop planetary systems. It will examine planets around other stars
to investigate their potential for life, and study planets within our
own Solar System.
This innovative telescope
represents a major step forward in technology, with a segmented mirror
three times larger than Hubble that operates a million miles away in
the cold, dark environment of Earth's Lagrange 2 point.
Dr. Heidi Hammel is one of
the six Interdisciplinary Scientists for this cutting-edge facility,
which is scheduled to launch in 2018. In this public lecture, Dr.
Hammel will update us on the telescopeís current status with images
and videos. She will also give an update of JWST's anticipated
science: JWSTís potential for measuring water in the atmospheres of
exoplanets, JWST's capacity to detect the light of the first galaxies
to form in the Universe, the ability of JWST to study the coldest
objects within our own Solar System, and much more.
Heidi Hammel -- a world authority on the planets Neptune and
Uranus -- is known for her many achievements probing the cosmos,
often using the famous Hubble Space Telescope. In 1994 when comet
Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter, Heidi was the leader of the
team that analyzed images of the event taken with Hubble. She was
also a member of the research group that first spotted Neptune's
Great Dark Spot (a raging storm as big as Earth) with the Voyager
spacecraft, and led a Hubble team that later documented the Great
Dark Spot's disappearance.
Today she is involved in another milestone: helping to develop the
next great space observatory that will succeed Hubble -- the James
Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to be launched later in 2018. "As
much as I love Hubble, itís time to build an even more
sophisticated tool that will enable us to see new things," says
Dr. Hammel. "Webb will probe regions of the cosmos that are simply
not visible to Hubble," she explains. "Itís much bigger and it
will be tuned to wavelengths that Hubble canít see. With Webb, we
have the potential to answer questions about the origins of just
about everything in the universe.Ē
She received her undergraduate degree from MIT in 1982 and her
Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from the University of Hawaii in
1988. After a post-doctoral position at the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, she returned to MIT, where she spent nearly nine years
as a Principal Research Scientist. She then worked as a Senior
Research Scientist and co-Director of Research at the Space
Science Institute until 2011. Dr. Hammel is now the Executive Vice
President of the Association of Universities for Research in
Astronomy (AURA). AURA -- a consortium of 39 U.S. universities and
institutions, as well as seven international affiliates --
operates world-class astronomical observatories including Hubble,
the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the National Solar
Observatory, and the Gemini Observatory.
Dr. Hammel primarily studies planets.
Her current research involves studies of Uranus and Neptune with
Hubble, the Keck 10-m telescope, and other Earth-based
observatories. For the Planetary Decadal Survey released in 2011,
Dr. Hammel led the Giant Planets Panel; in that role, she was
involved in designing and characterizing a number of mission
studies for outer solar system exploration.
Dr. Hammel has been widely recognized for her work. She was
profiled by the New York Times in 2008, Newsweek Magazine in
2007, and was identified as one of the 50 most important women
in science by Discover Magazine in 2002. She was elected a
Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
in 2000. In 1996, she received the Urey Prize from the American
Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences. Dr. Hammel
has also been lauded for her work in public outreach, including
the 2002 Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active
planetary scientist to the general public, the 1996 "Spirit of
American Women" National Award for encouraging young women to
follow non-traditional career paths, and the San Francisco
Exploratorium's 1998 Public Understanding of Science Award.
Asteroid "1981 EC20" has been renamed 3530 Hammel in her honor.